by Rebecca Horwitz
|Photo by Joan Horton.|
Canning and preserving fruits and vegetables in the home kitchen is a time-honored tradition, one that many people assume has fallen by the wayside in modern times. It’s true that canning can be time and labor intensive, and mass-produced canned goods are readily and cheaply available in the supermarket. But here in the Hudson Valley, where small farms and veggie gardens abound, there are still those who preserve the art of canning—either for home consumption or for market. It’s a worthy endeavor to capture the juicy flavor of summer, as we know it in all its myriad forms, to enjoy long after the season is over, even on the coldest of days.
If your garden has been successful this summer and you want to learn how to can yourself, there are tutorials online, such as that of the mason jar company Ball. It may be worth your while, however, to take a workshop at a place like as Phillies Bridge Farm Project, in Gardiner, NY. Throughout the summer they offer classes in canning and food preservation. Their final class of the year is on Friday, September 12 and is called “End of the Season Ideas.” The Cornell Cooperative Extension in Ulster County sometimes holds workshops on food preserving as well. On September 2, they will offer a workshop in pickling.
Or perhaps you’re more interested in supporting small businesses in our area that produce canned goods and preserves—fortunately there are many options. A visit to many of the Mid-Hudson Valley’s farmer’s markets and farm stands will reveal an enticing display of preserved fruits and vegetables. For example, at Migliorelli’s Farm Stand in Rhinebeck, you will find an array of jams, marmalades, and chutneys created by Beth’s Farm Kitchen, a small local woman-owned company in Stuyvesant Falls. It’s refreshing to note how short and pronounceable the ingredient list is; on a jar of Triple Fruit Marmalade, the ingredients are sugar, grapefruit, oranges, and lemons.
Rosendale, situated smack dab in the middle of Ulster County, has become a pickle and preserving mecca of sorts. At the Rosendale Farmer’s Market on Sundays, you’ll encounter Wright’s Farm goodies, including numerous kinds of jams, jellies, pickles, and apple sauce. Some of the interesting flavors include Pear Ginger, Hot Pepper Jelly, and Sour Cherry Jam. Once a year, in late fall, the International Pickle Festival comes to town. This year will be its 17th. At the newly opened Perry’s Pickles in Rosendale, there is a kitchen in the back of the store where staff do the pickling in-house. You can find attractive jars of pickled treats such as string beans (known as dilly beans), beets, onions, carrots, ramps, jalapeño peppers and of course cucumbers.
Following is a recipe even novice canners can do for peach preserves, adapted from the Georgia Peach Council. Peaches are also grown in the Hudson Valley, so try and buy local produce, if you can.
• 4 cups fresh peaches, peeled and chopped
• 1/4 cup lemon juice
• 1 package powdered pectin
• 5 cups sugar (or less, if you like your teeth)
• 6 sterilized half-pint jars
What to Do:
• Sterilize the pint jars by boiling them in a large stockpot with their lids for five minutes. Then remove them with tongs and let them dry on a dishtowel. Put them aside until later.
• In a large stock pot, combine peaches, lemon juice, and pectin. Bring to a boil over high heat until bubbles form over surface, stirring constantly.
• Add sugar and boil for an additional minute, constantly stirring. Remove from heat and skim foam from surface.
• Fill sterilized jars with hot jam, leaving ½” headspace. Place lids on jars and close tightly. Wipe sides of jars clean and process in boiling water for 5 minutes. (This is what is called hot water bath canning). Once jars have cooled, secure lids and store in cool, dark place for up to a year.
Following is a simple way to make pickles that doesn’t require canning. They will keep in the fridge for several weeks. This is a great way to use up extra cucumbers!
Simple Fridge Pickles
Prepare a couple of mason jars. You don’t have to sterilize them; just wash and dry.
Wash, dry and cut cukes (or leave them whole).
Add a spice mixture of 2 smashed garlic cloves and 1 teaspoon of dill seed to each jar. Pack the pickles into the jars.
Make a pickling brine: combine a cup of cider vinegar, a cup of water, and 1.5 tablespoons of kosher salt in a saucepan. Boil and pour over pickles.
Add lids, let cool, and refrigerate.